After spending all of our time and energy trying to protect our children, the last thing any parent wants is for someone else to hurt them; especially another child. Parents have very little control over the things that happen while our children are at school, and many times our children keep quiet about it as well. Perhaps they don’t want us to think that they aren’t strong, or maybe they’re afraid that the bully will get even madder; there could be a number of reasons.
If another adult were to tease or be cruel to our child, we could confront them and put a stop to it, but things get a little bit more complicated when it’s another child. Many times the parents do not want to believe that their child could really be bullying other children, and there are also parents who really don’t think it’s a big deal.
If you find that your child is being teased at school, your heart will literally break for them and you will wonder what you can do. There are definitely some major do’s and don’ts when it comes to dealing with teasing at school; here’s a closer look at both.
While dealing with your child being teased at school is certainly not easy, nor is there ever one concrete way to handle it, there are a few things that you can do to help.
First, make sure that you are readily available with open arms and empathy. Let your child know that they can talk to you about how they feel. Hug them if they need it, let them know you love them, and really listen when they talk. Also take cues from them; sometimes they don’t want your advice. They may be dealing with things in their own way and they simply want you to listen instead of telling them what you think they should do.
Second, as you talk with your child, try to gain some perspective on the situation. Find out more about the child doing the teasing; maybe you know that their mother just passed away, their family is struggling, or there is something else going on that would make them act this way. Also gain some information on the actual situation; maybe there is more to it than what your child is telling you.
If you have younger children, role-playing is often a good way to gain some perspective on what really happened. When you ask your child why they were being teased or bullied, they will generally respond, “I don’t know.” But when you role-play and ask them to be the other person, the whole story has a way of coming out.
Finally, make a plan of action together. How are you going to deal with the teasing? Things are always easier to take on when you are not alone; if your child feels that they have you on their side, it often makes things easier.
Don’t make suggestions; simply sit down with your child to create a strategy. Ask questions and let them answer; they often know what it is they need to do, they just need a little coaxing to realize it. The best thing you can do is offer comfort, reassurance, and positivity. Let them know that you are proud of them and are willing to help them in any way they would like you to.
It’s important to remember that our words, actions, and temperaments have major effects on our children. We will often see the things that we do reflected right back at us in them. When your child tells you that they are being teased, plan your words and reaction carefully; while you may want to get angry, you need to react in a calm way that shows your child that things can be dealt with in a mature manner. As you talk to your child, there are three major things that you DON’T want to tell them.
First, while you don’t want to make a major fuss about it and make them feel even worse, you also do not want to dismiss the teasing as nothing. Telling your child to “get over it,” or that it’s somehow their own fault is not going to solve anything and they probably won’t come to you with more serious problems in the future.
Remember that children are incredibly emotional and they also believe whatever they are told. If they are teased enough about being fat, ugly, or stupid, they will soon start to believe it’s true. By telling them that it’s no big deal or that it’s their own fault for associating with the children who are bullying them, they will start to believe that you think those things about them as well. A child’s self-esteem is a delicate thing that you do not want to trample over.
Second, do not be completely passive and give your child the “Ignore it and it will go away,” speech. The truth is, it’s not going to go away and bullies seldom get bored. While your child may be able to ignore it and remain calm on the outside, inside they are being ripped apart.
Likewise, you as a parent cannot ignore the problem either. Telling your child that you will just see what happens is not going to help anything. They came to you because they need help. While it may be uncomfortable and you may end up upsetting some people, it’s your job as the adult and especially as the parent to stand up for your child and do something.
Lastly, “an eye for an eye,” is definitely not the lesson to teach your child. While you may want your child to punch the kid in the face (and you probably want to yourself as well) that’s not the way to handle the situation and your child could end up in serious trouble. Don’t teach your child to hit back, call names, or be otherwise negative or aggressive. You want to teach your child to be the bigger person instead of stooping to the bully’s level.